with SAD ASIAN GIRLS
Esther Fan and Olivia Park are graphic designers making work under the name Sad Asian Girls, breaking the culture of passivity of Asians during discussions of social issues, as well as breaking stereotypes that have been long projected onto Asian women.
1) How would you describe SAG for individuals who may not be aware of your work?
We’re just two graphic designers who have been making multimedia projects based on our experiences as East Asian women in Western spaces.
2) What inspired you to create SAG? Any particular experiences that fueled the development of it?
After we uploaded “Have You Eaten?”, it started to circulate and we realized a lot of people resonated with the video, thus we agreed to continue working together and make more work for and about people like ourselves.
3) How would you describe your art practice?
We’d say it’s very spontaneous, often heavily web-based and accompanied with print. It’s not very “traditional” graphic design work, but we definitely still apply the skills and thought processes we’ve gained from school and merge it with our interests.
4) How do you think your identities and backgrounds influenced your experience in pursuing a career in the arts?
Esther’s dad is a private art teacher for high-schoolers, and so it was sort of expected of her, as the teacher’s daughter, to get into the best art school there is in order to sort of keep up her dad’s reputation. However, she’s always been interested in art; in grade school she was always the lonely kid with no friends who would just be drawing in her sketchbook in the corner. She still is, except on her laptop
Olivia always wanted to do graphic design or at least something related to the arts at a very early age. Both her parents are art majors so maybe that had a big influence on how she got to RISD. Though neither of them could pursue the arts once they immigrated to America, they thought Olivia might have a chance because she is American-born and speaks english fluently.
5) Recently, you created a project commenting on the white washing of gallery spaces. What inspired that project?
The MoMA project was actually more about the lack of asian femme artists in museum spaces, often referred to as “white cubes” (minimal white walls and floor, spaces look like literal white cubes) that also, fittingly, are often dominated by white male artists. We wanted to come up with an engaging and experimental project that would state our desire for more representation; thus, literally inserting our asian femme bodies into the white cube with shirts that state our desire. As a secondary portion of the project, we had also had postcards, buttons, and square cards made that had artwork submissions by asian artists on them, which we put into the shelves of MoMA’s Design Store.
6) Is there anything else you want to share?
A lot of folks ask us what their first step is if they want to do/make something. Finding a like-minded individuals or support groups is one of the most helpful tips. While good ideas can be executed alone, collaborating can increase network, creative flow, and the number of skillsets to aid whatever is being done. In shorter words, with everything you do, think of resources that can help you whether it be folks online or people right in front of you. Collaboration has worked very well for the work we created thus far.
Additionally, in school it’s easy to become immersed in the heavily white male dominated art and design world; they take up most of the syllabus for art history courses. It was up to us to actively look for other inspirations that we could resonate with more; this often meant we had to look outside of the graphic design field and look for any creative asian femmes we could find in order to find aesthetic and conceptual inspiration. We realized pretty soon we had to become the type of role models, or at least somewhat public figures, that we lacked when we were younger. There certainly is a quickly rising population of asian-americans in the art world and particularly the activism world; it’s exciting to watch how we progress and grow.